We call upon the federal government, in collaboration with Survivors, Aboriginal organizations, and the arts community, to develop a reconciliation framework for Canadian heritage and commemoration. It would include, but not be limited to: 

  1. Amending the Historic Sites and Monuments Act to include First Nations, Inuit, and Métis representation on the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada and its Secretariat. 
  2. Revising the policies, criteria, and practices of the National Program of Historical Commemoration to integrate Indigenous history, heritage values, and memory practices into Canada’s national heritage and history.
  3. Developing and implementing a national heritage plan and strategy for commemorating residential school sites, the history and legacy of residential schools, and the contributions of Aboriginal peoples to Canada’s history.

Indigenous Watchdog Status Update

Current StatusOct. 4, 2021IN PROGRESS
Previous StatusSept. 5, 2021IN PROGRESS

Why “In Progress”?

The Government of Canada has initiated a  number of steps that directly address this Call to Action:

(i) Bill C-374 An Act to amend the Historic Sites and Monuments Act (composition of the Board) passed unanimously in the House on May, 8, 2018. Three additional board members – First Nations, Métis and Inuit- were officially appointed on June 11, 2018

(ii) Federal government will consult with Indigenous groups to revise the National Program of Historical Commemoration and

(iii) No specific mention of developing and implementing national heritage plan and strategy aside from $23.9M over 5 years to fund specific “Indigenous views, history and heritage” actions in national parks, marine conversation areas and historic sites.

March 4, 2020 – The program funding deadline for projects under $5,000 has been extended

Significant Change

Sept. 5, 2019 – Revised “Changes will be made” to Bill C-374 “The Historic Sites and Monuments Act” to “proposes”.

i. Amending the Historic Sites and Monuments Act to include First Nations, Inuit, and Métis

Timelines to Amend the Historic Sites and Monument Act

Oct. 18, 2017 – Bill C-374: An Act to amend the Historic Sites and Monuments Act (composition of the Board) introduced. The Bill will add three indigenous members – First Nations, Métis and Inuit – to the board.

May 8, 2018 – Bill C-374 An Act to amend the Historic Sites and Monuments Act (composition of the Board) passed unanimously in the House after Third Reading.

June 11, 2018 – Announced the appointment of three distinguished Canadians to the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada (HSMBC):

  1. Lisa Prosper, from Inuvik, Northwest Territories, is a scholar and public speaker, presenting and publishing nationally and internationally on cultural landscape theory and practice, notably relating to Indigenous cultural heritage. Ms. Prosper’s appointment was effective March 26, 2018.
  2. Timothy Christian, from North Saanich, British Columbia, is a Professor Emeritus, Faculty of Law, University of Alberta. He has published and practiced extensively in the fields of constitutional, administrative and labour law, and has decades of experience in mediation, facilitation and negotiation at the provincial and federal levels. Mr. Christian’s appointment was effective May 19, 2018. 
  3. Bernard Thériault, from Caraquet, New Brunswick, represented the Caraquet region as Member of Provincial Parliament from 1987 to 2000. Now a retired public servant, Mr. Thériault served the New Brunswick government for over twenty-five years, including ten years spent as an historian and curator in its heritage branch.  Mr. Thériault’s appointment is effective June 13, 2018.
ii. Revising the policies, criteria, and practices of the National Program of Historical Commemoration to integrate Indigenous history, heritage values, and memory practices into Canada’s national heritage and history.

Parks Canada and the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada Parks Canada and the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada through a combination of existing sites and new locations have integrated Indigenous history, heritage and culture throughout Canada. Sample sites include:

Edhaa (Fort Simpson island): Northwest Territories
July 9, 2017 – Łiidlįį Kų́ę́ Dene First Nation commemorated the importance of Edhaa as a place of national historic significance. Ehdaa has long been a traditional gathering place for the Dene, where people came together to trade, renew old ties, resolve disputes, and participate in ceremonies of healing.

Skmaqn–Port-la-Joye–Fort Amherst, Prince Edward Island
July 5, 2018 – Mi’kmaq Confederacy of PEI commemorated the first permanent European settlement on Île Saint-Jean (today Prince Edward Island). After falling to British forces in 1758, it became the site of a major deportation of French and Acadian settlers. A Grand Alliance was forged here between the Mi’kmaq and French – one of only two locations in North America where this was celebrated annually with speeches, gifting and feasting.

Aug. 13, 2019 – Commemorated the national historic significance of the 18th century Mi’kmaq-French Alliance with a special plaque unveiling ceremony. The 18th century Mi’kmaq-French Alliance reflected both Mi’kmaq and French understandings of diplomacy, including the ceremonial exchange of gifts, and provides an explicit example of how formal relationships were negotiated, annually renewed and how cultural understandings were accommodated in some parts of France’s North American empire.

Ukkusiksalik  National Park, Nunavut
Ukkusiksalik means “place to find stone to make pots” in Inuktitut, the language of the Inuit of Nunavut. Hundreds of archaeological sites show that the area has been a gathering spot for Inuit for over 3,000 years, Inuksuit (plural of inuksuk) wayfinding, stone markers used by Inuit, are plentiful across the park landscape.

Batoche National Historic Site, Saskatchewan
(Métis) – Batoche was the final battlefield of the Northwest Resistance of 1885, an uprising born of years of the Metis people feeling excluded from the growth and development of the Canadian West. Batoche commemorates this armed conflict between the Canadian government and the Metis provisional government led by Louis Riel and Gabriel Dumont.

Rocky Mountain House National Historic Site, Alberta
Piikani First Nation of the Blackfoot Confederacy. For 76 years Rocky Mountain House was the centre of commerce for the west. The great mapmaker, David Thompson used the site as his starting point when seeking passage to the west coast. In the thick forests of the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, the rapids at the confluence of the North Saskatchewan and the Clearwater rivers mark a site where in 1799, the Northwest Company established Rocky Mountain House here to serve as a fur trade post

Jan. 21, 2019 Miawpukek First Nation, Newfoundland and Labrador. Chief Mi’sel Joe was the lead advocate to have The National Museum of Scotland transfer Beothuk remains to Canada. Through tremendous partnership and perseverance, we can restore these remains to their rightful home, reflect on what has been lost, and be hopeful about what can be gained through reconciliation, and by honouring Indigenous culture. Premier Dwight Ball

Obadjiwan-Fort Témiscamingue National Historic Site
July 5, 2019 – Timiskaming First Nation – The Government of Canada will transfer 50% of the ownership of the national historic site into a trust to better represent Indigenous history. Co-ownership will help protect Indigenous history and culture and enable the Timiskaming First Nation to be directly involved in the management of the national historic site. With this new agreement and name (addition of Obadjiwan), the site will now better reflect 6,500 years of Indigenous land use and occupation in Obadjiwan and the surrounding area of Lake Temiskaming.

Samuel de Champlain Monument, Ontario
July 24, 2019 – Chippewas of Rama First Nation, Huron-Wendat Nation -Report and Recommendations released on behalf of Samuel de Champlain Monument Working Group agreeing with all recommendations:

  1. That the Samuel de Champlain Monument be re-installed with only the central figure of Samuel de Champlain atop the plinth and that this installation occur immediately.
  2. That the First Nations figures along with the figures of the Fur Trader and Missionary be the subject of further consultation with First Nations. It is the hope of the Samuel de Champlain Monument Working Group that future work, with the aim of re-imagining their presence in the immediate vicinity of the original Monument, will result in a meaningful and concrete example of Reconciliation.
  3. That the text of the original Monument’s “in-set plaque” be updated so that it will honour the original intent within the context of contemporary knowledge and wisdom.
  4. That additional interpretive signage/pieces be developed and created with the participation of First Nations representatives to tell a historically accurate story of Samuel de Champlain and his relationship with First Nations.
iii. Developing and implementing a national heritage plan and strategy for commemorating residential school sites, the history and legacy of residential schools, and the contributions of Aboriginal peoples to Canada’s history.
Canadian Heritage: Commemorating the History and Legacy of Residential Schools

This component of the Celebration and Commemoration Program provides grants and contributions to eligible recipients for initiatives that will increase awareness and commemorate the history and legacy of residential schools, and honour residential school survivors, their families and communities. The program received $10M in Budget 2019 for two years.

The Celebration and Commemoration Program is comprised of two components: Celebrate Canada and Commemorate Canada. The Program aims to:

  • provide access to celebrations across Canada to enable all Canadians to appreciate Canada’s cultural, ethnic, linguistic and geographic diversity;
  • provide access to commemorations and celebrations of national significance to all Canadians to recognize Canada’s notable people, places, symbols, anniversaries and accomplishments; and

create opportunities for all Canadians to participate in national celebrations and commemorations that contribute to building a sense of pride and belonging to Canada.

Commemorate Canada: Projects up to $50,000Deadline April 9, 2020

Projects up to $5,000 – Deadline March 27, 2020 Extended due to COVID-19

To be eligible for funding from the Commemorating the History and Legacy of Residential Schools component, your project must:

  • increase awareness and commemorate the history and legacy of residential schools;
  • honour residential school Survivors, their families and communities; or
  • provide an opportunity for Survivors, families and communities to share their stories and advance inter-generational healing and reconciliation.

Examples of eligible projects:

  • healing circles and gardens, community meals, ceremonies;
  • healing workshops, Elder presentations, speaker series;
  • travelling exhibits and displays;
  • commemorative walls, cairns and plaques;
  • educational and awareness material; and
  • cultural and artistic initiatives.
  • The project must not be designed for fundraising purposes or generate commercial advantage or profit.
Assembly of First Nations Recommendations

Resolution No 96/2018 – Support for TRC Call to Action #79 (iii)

  1. Direct the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) to support the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) Call to Action #79 (iii) – a national heritage strategy to commemorate all Residential School sites.
  2. Direct the AFN to support the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation (NCTR) bringing forward a survivor and community focused submission to the National Historic Sites and Monuments Board (NHSMB) calling for Canada to officially designate all Residential Schools sites as National Historical Sites.
  3. Direct the AFN to support the NCTR making a submission to the NHSMB based on the following principles:
    • communities be in control of any monuments erected on the sites of residential schools
    • communities have full agency over determining the scope, form and content of any monuments including having agency to decline a monument
    • communities be empowered to develop community narratives supportive of this work in accordance with TRC Call to Action #78, which calls upon the Government of Canada to commit to making a funding contribution of $10 million over 7 years to the NCTR, plus an additional amount to assist communities to research and produce histories of their own Residential Schools experience and their involvement in truth, healing, and reconciliation
    • there is an ongoing need to honour and acknowledge the children that never returned home from the schools
    • there remains the continued existence of hundreds of unmarked burial sites associated with Residential School sites
  4. Direct the AFN to call upon the National Historical Sites and Monuments Board to recognize Residential School sites as national historic sites.
  5. Direct the AFN to call upon the Government of Canada to encourage the NCTR to develop a fulsome response and plan for responding to TRC Calls to Action #72-76 and the realization of community narratives outlined in Call to Action #78.
Reconciliation Initiatives with with Canadian Heritage

Legacy of Hope

100 Years of Loss – The Residential School System in Canada. A collaborative effort, this education program was developed by a multidisciplinary team representing both education and museum practice, and is based on a museum education model. The program is comprised of two main components: the Edu-kit and the mobile exhibition. Throughout the research, planning, design, and development phases of 100 Years of Loss, the LHF worked closely with First Nations, Inuit, and Métis curriculum developers, researchers, and curators, and drew upon a wealth of Survivor testimony. This method assured that the program was developed in a culturally respectful manner and that the materials accurately reflect the experiences of Survivors. IRS Survivors were represented in the review process and the texts of both the Edu-kit and exhibition were subject to a rigorous review and verification process by the Research Division of the Aboriginal Healing Foundation. The bilingual mobile exhibition and curriculum are designed to raise awareness about the history and legacy of residential schools and includes companion educational resources for students in grades 9-12. The exhibition consists of eight thematic pods (4 in each official language), and a wavy wall that presents interweaving timelines, and lends itself to week-long activities or events, such as Aboriginal Awareness Week. The 100 Years of Loss curriculum, targeted to Canadian youth aged 11-18, includes a timeline, videos including Survivor testimonies, and a Teacher’s Guide with six customizable lesson plans (12-24 hrs of activities), teacher resources and extension activities.

Parks Canada

Oct. 5,2020: Parks Canada – $23.9M for Parks Canada to integrate Indigenous views, history and heritage into natural and historic areas. This investment in nature will help protect species at risk, expand and manage protected areas, and facilitate partnerships with the provinces, territories, and Indigenous peoples to ensure a clean and thriving environment for future generations.

Sask Culture

SaskCulture embarked upon a very special journey called Resilience and Respect: Canada 150 and Beyond. This project, funded by Canadian Heritage, helped us to build and strengthen our relationships with the Buffalo People Arts Institute, Gabriel Dumont Institute, Saskatchewan Indigenous Cultural Centre, Saskatchewan Aboriginal Writing Circle Inc., and Saskatchewan Arts Board. Each of these organizations delivered important and impactful cultural programming that highlighted the resilience of Indigenous peoples, cultures and languages in response to Canada’s sesquicentennial.

Municipal Commemoration
EdmontonAug. 13, 2018: Edmonton Journal – Indigenous Art Park is the result of collaboration between the Confederacy of Treaty Six First Nations, the Métis Nation of Alberta, Indigenous community members, the Edmonton Arts Council and the city. The permanent exhibit features six indigenous sculptures.
Owen SoundJuly 7, 2019The Owen Sound Sun Times – Phase 1 of the Giche Namewikwedong Reconciliation Garden has been completed. When finished the garden will contain interpretive plaques on the legacy of Canada’s residential school system, the ’60s Scoop and intergenerational trauma that continues to exist today as well as information on the history, culture and teachings of local Aboriginal people. Art pieces will share Indigenous culture and healing practices, while plants and a sign will tell the story of the history of the garden’s location.
Phase 2 will also involve carving Seven Grandfather Teachings and adding a north pathway and garden beds. For Phase 3, which will cost another $30,000, a five-metre-long metal sturgeon sculpture will be created and then installed in the 43-metre dry stream. Interpretive plaques will be added, along with more pathways and plantings. Grandmother/grandfather stones will be installed.
PerthApril 11, 2018: Indigenous Land&Resources Today – A Healing Forest memorial to residential school children as well as murdered and missing indigenous women will soon be appearing in Last Duel Park. The memorial consisting of a rock with a mounted plaque, a display board and Native Healing plants will go in beside the Wendy Laut Garden path.
SaskatoonAug. 15, 2018 – The process for naming the new Chief Mistawasis Bridge entailed an unprecedented level of community engagement and also involved the Indigenous community. Mistawasis, also known as Pierre Belanger, was the Cree chief who helped negotiate and signed Treaty 6. The aim of the bridge naming procedure was to find a way to honour Indigenous heritage in line with the recommendations from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
TorontoNov. 14, 2017: TorStar – Toronto is looking to incorporate indigenous placemaking in parks and public places to showcase indigenous culture and history and reflect their traditions. Includes designated spaces for sacred fires, indigenous ceremonies and indigenous art and access to rivers and water courses. There are also plans to name new parks or rename existing ones to honor outstanding indigenous figures: Dr. Lillian McGregor Park:  a new 0.65 Hectare park named after former nurse and community leader and first indigenous woman to be awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Toronto Change name of Lower Don Parklands to The Wondscotonach Parklands and Anishinaabe name meaning “black burnt grounds” or “area previously swept by fire”
VancouverJan. 6, 2015: “The Vancouver Park Board” directs staff to:
Continue Park Board’s precedent-setting intergovernmental approach to the future stewardship of Stanley Park and other relevant lands; Review the donation of monuments, memorials, and public art processes and policies to ensure integration of Indigenous history, heritage values, and memory practices; Review archeological protocols to ensure that “Aboriginal protocols shall be respected before any potentially invasive technical inspection and investigation of a cemetery site” or soil disturbance of a midden site takes place on park lands; http://parkboardmeetings.vancouver.ca/2018/20180416/REPORT-PBReconciliationStrategies-TRCUpdate-20180416.pdf
Official Federal Government Response: Sept. 5, 2019

The Government of Canada is working with various partners to change the membership of the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada to include First Nations, Inuit and Métis representation. Bill C-374 proposes changes to the Historic Sites and Monuments Act to allow for 3 additional board members to be appointed. It is important to ensure that the way historic sites, events and people of national significance are presented and commemorated is inclusive of Indigenous peoples perspectives. The Government of Canada is also committed to commemorating the residential school legacy in a way that is meaningful, respects the diversity of survivor perspectives and is flexible to new ways of commemoration.

Engagement with Indigenous partners on both a national commemoration of the residential school legacy and on the roles and responsibilities of the anticipated 3 additional Historic Sites and Monuments Board members has begun.

In response to this call to action, Budget 2018 announced $23.9 million over 5 years, starting in fiscal year 2018 to 2019, for Parks Canada to integrate Indigenous views, history and heritage into the national parks, marine conservation areas and historic sites managed by the department.